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Advanced Threat Hunting: Are You The Hunter Or The Hunted?

Make proactive threat hunting a standard part of your security best practices and not just an element of incident-response measures.

Ned Miller

August 10, 2016

2 Min Read

In my travels over the last six months, meeting with customers across many vertical markets, I have heard a growing concern about the inability to make cyber defensive strategies more proactive. The common complaint is the lack of time and skilled talent to be more aggressive and to shift from hunted to hunter, actively looking for threats across the enterprise.       

“Signs of strain within security operations due to workforce shortages are materializing. Configuration mistakes and oversights, for example, were identified by the survey respondents as a material concern. Also, remediation time following system or data compromises is steadily getting longer. The net result is that information security professionals are increasingly cornered into a reactionary role of identifying compromises, recovering from mistakes, and addressing security incidents as they occur rather than proactively mitigating the contributing factors.” [2015 (ISC) Global Information Security Workforce Study, Frost & Sullivan]

This is not idle concern about potential problems. The 2016 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that more than 80% of all breach victims learn of a compromise from third-party notifications, not from internal security teams. The advanced threats have often been present in the organization for months prior to being detected, and in most cases the compromised organization is surprised when the breach is discovered.

When I asked executives what their plan of action was given the resource constraints, many said they would have to refine their incident-response practices or invest in additional technologies to improve their security capabilities. I doubt anyone would be surprised by these responses as they seem logical on the surface. However:

“A cautionary note to this type of expenditure was expressed by nearly two-thirds of the respondents. The incremental addition of security technologies without corresponding reduction in existing security platforms, what we term security technology sprawl, is weighing on the security team’s effectiveness and efficiency.” [Frost & Sullivan]

Effective and efficient are critical characteristics of security, but not the words one typically thinks of when describing cybersecurity measures after a breach. It is more like reactive, after-the-fact, who-does-what, organized chaos.

It is time for a call to action. We understand the resource and time constraints, and there is a requirement for fundamental transformation in security operations to affect significant change. Work with your security teams and vendors to find new ways to automate as much of the day-to-day process as possible to create time for more proactive activities. Implement hunting best practices, evaluate hunting tools that integrate with your existing technologies to reduce the usage learning curve, and limit integration challenges that come with new investments. Make proactive threat hunting a standard part of your security best practices and not just an element of incident-response measures. Security operations must adapt to the reality of advanced threats and become the hunter in their environment.

About the Author(s)

Ned Miller

Intel Security, Chief Technology Strategist for Public Sector

Ned Miller, a 30+ year technology industry veteran, is the Chief Technology Strategist for the Intel Security Public Sector division. Mr. Miller is responsible for working with industry and government thought leaders and worldwide public sector customers to ensure that technology, standards, and implementations meet the challenges of information security and privacy issues today and in the future. In addition, Mr. Miller is also responsible for worldwide government certification efforts to ensure Intel's products comply with the latest global security standards and protocols.

Mr. Miller acts as the internal customer advocate within Intel's Security and advises Intel's executive leadership with strategies to drive government and cybersecurity requirements into Intel's products and services portfolio and guide Intel's policy strategy for the public sector, critical infrastructure, and threat-intelligence communities of interest.

Prior to joining Intel Security, Mr. Miller served in several executive, sales, business, technical, and corporate development leadership capacities. Most recently, Mr. Miller held executive sales and technical leadership positions with Hewlett Packard, including the Global Chief Technology Strategist for Hewlett Packard's Enterprise Security Products team. In addition, Mr. Miller worked for Symantec as the Corporate Development leader for Symantec's public sector organization responsible for advising sales leadership and driving innovative solution approaches in support of standards initiatives and programs such as next-generation security controls, Security Content Automation Protocol (SCAP), Cyber Scope, cloud and cloud security, FedRAMP, the latest in information protection methodologies for mobility, and next-generation identity management and authentication solutions. 

Before joining Symantec, Mr. Miller was the founder and CEO of the IT security firm Secure Elements.  Secure Elements was an early pioneer in the development of security standards. In addition, Mr. Miller has authored numerous whitepapers on enterprise security management and is the co-inventor of a series of next-generation network security patents. Mr. Miller is also recognized by the US Government as a subject-matter expert on the topic of security automation and information protection and is an active moderator and panelist across the IT industry.

Mr. Miller is also an active member on the NIST Security and Cloud Standards Working Groups, former chair of the Cyber Security SIG of the ISSA, and a member of AFCEA, CSIA, and Tech America's Cloud - State & Local Government Commission.

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